An Interview With: Pianist Angela Hewitt

On October 17th, acclaimed pianist Angela Hewitt will be coming down to Devon as part of this year’s Two Moors Festival, playing a programme consisting of pieces by Scarlatti and other Spanish-influenced works at St Andrew’s Church in Ashburton.

We caught up with Angela to chat about the upcoming performance, the oddest places she’s ever played and why she prefers a Fazioli grand.

uk classical music festivals

Angela Hewitt2MF: How did you go about arranging your programme & deciding what to put in it?

AH: It’s a programme I chose for Wigmore Hall in London for this autumn season. I have always loved Spanish music, and recorded Granados 25 years ago for CBC Records. My piano teacher, Jean-Paul Sevilla, was of 100% Spanish blood, and one of the pianists I admired the most in those years was Alica del Larrocha. So I was introduced to it as a teenager. Since I was also a dancer for 20 years, I really love playing this music that is so inspired by the dance. Scarlatti of course has been part of my repertoire almost since the beginning, and I am now embarking on a recording project for Hyperion to record some of his 555 Sonatas! He was Italian but lived in Spain, and used many of the Spanish dance rhythms in his music.

2MF: It’s a bit of a departure from Bach, which you are most well-known for. Is it a welcome change?

AH: Yes. I can use more pedal.

2MF: What about Bach is it that really captures your imagination?

AH: It is simply the greatest music around. There is other great music, but I don’t think there is music greater than that of Johann Sebastian Bach. It is perfectly constructed, with great depth of feeling, beautifully melodious, very spiritual… everything all at once! Plus it is the best music for improving your keyboard skills. And it dances!

2MF: Any tips for budding pianists planning on tackling the composer’s ouevre of works?

AH: Practise, practise, practise. And use intelligent fingering!

2MF: Are you looking forward to playing in a church set in the Devonshire countryside? Any concerns about playing in a church (not famed for their brilliant acoustics)?

AH: I love playing in churches. The atmosphere of country churches in particular can be very special. I can deal with the acoustics, I’m sure. At this point in my career, I’ve seen and done it all!

2MF: Where’s the oddest place you’ve ever played?

AH: I don’t know. A tent, a barn, a high school gym, a Masonic temple, inside a record store, in basement piano storage rooms under famous concert hall stages, in the bar of the (former) Regent Hotel in Sydney when it was closed on Good Friday, and being mistaken for the bar pianist… the casino in San Remo, Italy… the list goes on!

2MF: You’re typically a Fazioli pianist. How do you feel about playing our Bosendorfer?

AH: If it’s a good one, then I look forward to it! I used to play a lot of Bosendorfer pianos when I lived in Paris from 1978-1985. The dealer there at that time was very welcoming to pianists and had a recital hall in his showroom. I liked their fluent action and clarity. So let’s see…!

2MF: How do the two pianos differ? Do pianists usually find a type of piano they prefer to play?

AH: Every piano is different, even pianos of the same make. A lot of pianists like to stay with one brand of piano because it makes them feel “safe”. I like to be challenged. I like a piano that gives me myriad colours to work with—that is not all “equal” from top to bottom. In fact, I hate that. How boring can you get?! Don’t give me grey cardboard to work with. Give me all the colours of the rainbow, shimmering and twinkling! Then I’m happy. And give me an action that is easy to play and that I can caress with ease, yet still has depth of sound. And there you have my own Fazioli concert grand piano!


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